The SMH Sustainability Summit held in September this year confirmed that big business has fully embraced sustainability as integral to ongoing corporate success, as evidenced by the roll call of government and big largest corporates who presented on how they are embedding sustainability in their operations.
Climate action, getting to net zero and decarbonisation headlined the day and permeated all of the presentations. Matt Kean, NSW Treasurer and Minister for Climate Change spoke to the NSW governments’ credentials in tackling climate change including a bipartisan agreement for NSW decarbonisation by 50% reduction by 2030 and investing $50Bn in nearly 200 large scale renewable projects. Citing the huge benefit to the economy that these climate projects bring, NSW is declaring 5 Renewable Energy Zones to host major renewable projects, the Waratah Super Battery project to be the biggest in the southern hemisphere, and the establishment of a Green Hydrogen hub for heavy industry with grants totalling $150M.
Kate Hart from corporate sustainability consultancy Kearney affirmed that the leading corporates embraced sustainability goals integrated into the main corporate strategy rather than hiving them off in a separate silo. They also hired trained professionals to lead this critical area and ensured direct reporting lines to the CEO ensuring a cross-functional implementation and embedding of sustainability initiatives.
The recently elected “Teals” – Zali Steggall MP from Warringah, Kylea Tink MP from North Sydney, Allegra Spender MP Wentworth and Sophie Scamps MP Mackellar comprised a lively panel confirming their mandate as Independents was not only to hold the Government to account for promises made during the election, but to push them even harder on climate action. While aligned on key issues, they did not vote as a group but sought to represent their individual communities values and concerns around climate action.
The Circular Economy also featured as a key topic with Lisa Maclean CEO of NSW Circular and the $2Bn opportunity to create hundreds of thousands of new jobs and tackle the 35% of waste which ends up in landfill in NSW alone.
The ACCC detailed the actions they were planning to counter greenwashing by companies in their marketing and advertising. Ambit claims such as “environmentally friendly”, “compostable” and “biodegradable” are now coming under scrutiny, to protect consumers who are left with little information on which to base their shopping decisions in the supermarket isle. The ACCC are going to be investigating environmental claims made by companies, with up to 40% of claims being potentially misleading. We heard from -Telstra, Woolworths and Kimberley Clark that they heeded the ACCC’s advice to ensure they could back up any sustainability claims with evidence and that they are committed to improving their sustainability track record and transition to a low carbon future.